Building Your Business in 2016

We’ve reached the last post of the 2015 year and to finish off I wanted to share a blog post from the great leader Darren Hardy along with a few thoughts as we step into 2016.  Darren shared this post last week and I encourage you to take time to read it, there are lots of great insights and encouragement in it.  So what are my recommendations as we head into 2016?

First, have heroes/mentors.  Always look for those you can look up to and learn from.  You’re not in this journey alone.  You aren’t building your business alone.  There are tons of people you can look to for advice, as well as coaches (like me) and other resources you can work with personally.

Second, pursue your potential.  Decide now that in 2016 you’ll stop pursuing the fluff and focus on that which will help you accomplish your goals, have more victories and build a better business that helps more people and makes a big impact in the world.

Third, be curious.  I’m always amazed at all that is in the world that I never knew about. I learn something new each day, and often it’s because I’ve chosen to be open and pursue education and lessons.  I refuse to limit myself to what I know and what I’m doing, I choose to be open to learning from the world, trying new things and growing.

Fourth, believe in yourself and others too.  As mentioned in the first point you’re not alone. But we’ve had our trust crushed in so many ways over so many years that it’s a little hard sometimes to believe that others really have our best interests at heart.  True, they won’t always, but if you go into things cautiously but hopeful for the best and challenging others to live up to their true potential more often than not the outcome will be a good one.

So as we head into 2016 and end 2015 know that if it wasn’t your best year yet you’ve got a new one just around the corner waiting for you to dig in.

Hope for 2016

Can you believe we’ve reached the last week of 2015? Can you believe that another year is almost over?  Are you excited about that?  Worried about the new year?  How are you feeling in this last week?  I hope that as challenging as 2015 may have been for you there have been some really good moments as well that when you look back over the year in your thinking about the new year and maybe new years resolutions you’ll be able to be proud of at least a few things and not just look back and see regrets.

As we finish off this year I wanted to share about a topic that I always come back to because I believe it’s so important for us: hope.  Let’s take a look briefly at 3 things that you can put into your new year to make 2016 a better year than 2015.

Preparation:  This is a step that so many people skip or miss.  They’re so focused on taking action and rushing forward that they don’t take the time to ask questions or make plans.  There’s a lot that you can avoid if you’re even just a little bit prepared.

Work Hard: making plans and being prepared can’t be effective unless action is taken on those plans and preparations.  If you’re willing to put a little extra effort into 2016 the results you will see a year from now will amaze you.

Believe in a little luck: I know this doesn’t sound like it is really something you can do and to a big extent it’s not.  Luck happens often randomly and without reason, that’s part of why it’s called luck.  But if you’re open to having good things magically and randomly appear in your life it leaves the door open for blessings the universe wants to send your way.

I’m grateful for 2015 but looking forward to 2016, what about you?

“Be prepared, work hard, and hope for a little luck. Recognize that the harder you work and the better prepared you are, the more luck you might have.”  Ed Bradley

The Story of St. Nick

Christmas is all about stories, and depending on who you ask there are several stories about the origins of Christmas, one of which is Santa, also known as St. Nick. Today I thought it would be fun to take a look at where St. Nick came from and how we’ve gotten to have him as one of the key figures of Christmas today.

The original Saint Nicholas is from the 3rd century. He was known for using his inheritance to help the needy, sick and suffering. Even as a young man he was giving help to children, women and sailors. He was eventually persecuted for his good deeds and spent years in prison. His gift giving habits and general good-will were adopted by many different countries who created their own versions of Father Christmas (UK), Santa (Scotland), Pere Noel (France), Christ Kind (Germany), and Kris Kringle (USA). It’s through Saint Nicholas and his various “brothers” that we have the practice of filling stockings with gifts.

The most obvious reason of why he was given the honor of becoming the icon of Christmas was because of his love for kids. As much as adults love giving and getting gifts at Christmas, the gift giving tradition is really about the kids. It’s not about the dollar amount of the gifts you’ve given or who can give the most gifts, but about helping those in need and bringing joy to little hearts everywhere.

On this very special day I encourage you to step back from the serious preparations, family obligations, and other commitments and make sure to take time to love on your kids and family. Let them know you appreciate them beyond their ability to give you gifts but for the special person that they are.

Business Traditions

I was perusing the grocery store ads this week and saw an ad for the 7 fishes dinner celebration that many Italian families do on Christmas Eve and was reminded how much of the holidays are about traditions. Traditions are those go-to standbys that everyone has; every family, every business, every holiday. Traditions are a great way to remind us of the past, remember people who are no longer with us and keep things status-quo. But if there are too many things that are “sacred,” there’s no room for change and growth; no way to try new Christmas cookies, tree trimming practices, or room for new people in the celebration.

The same holds true for your business: you have to find a way to keep the traditions, values and practices that are the important and essential foundation of your business while still making room for change and growth. It’s one thing to want to consistently show up for your customers in ways they’ve come to expect you will, it’s another to deny that the world is changing around you and you don’t have to move along with any of those changes.

I believe you can give your website, your social media, your products/services all a face-lift and upgrade them with/to newer technology and looks without ruining what your customers love about you. You can also add or change what you offer to some extent without losing the essence of you.  I don’t believe that you should let your fear of losing all that’s good about your business hold you back from moving forward. There’s typically some loss when changes happen, but often changes can bring out good that you never knew you had, or opportunities you could never embrace before.

With Christmas just a few days away and the new year a little over a week away, seriously consider whether your traditions and practices are holding you back from enjoying all that the world and the holiday has to offer or if it’s time to embrace some new traditions and practices.

Balance and Success

Most people want to be successful because they think that success will get them more of something they want. Typically topping the list of wants are money, recognition, relationships and happiness in general. Success can help you get these things and having a goal when working towards success can help you stay focused and actually achieve success instead of dreaming about it. But sometimes working towards success means that you’ll decrease your chances of having the very things you want. For example if you’re working 24/7 because you want more money there’s a good chance that you’ll ruin your relationships at the same time because you’re not giving them any attention. This is where the challenge of balance comes in, something that most people aren’t able to achieve.

Balance isn’t about keeping all the balls you’re juggling in the air, but about having things to do, love and hope for. There’s no shame in loving your work or choosing family over work, no matter what the world says. You have to make your own choices about what balance looks like in your life. I will remind you though that it’s not balance if there are areas of your life that are seriously suffering and causing problems for you as a result of the choices you’ve made.

In this season that brings many people happiness and some people pain, I encourage you to take time for what makes you happy. If that’s donating time to a charity do it. If it’s taking time off from work to be with people you love, do it. If it’s planning for the future and creating a to do list for how you’re going to accomplish your plan in the new year, do it.

“Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.”  Joseph Addison

A Grateful Christmas

There’s just one week left until Christmas and as I was thinking about the holiday over the last few weeks and dealing with the traffic and general busyness of the month I found myself saying “Thank God” a lot. There were the moments when someone was about to back up into my car but finally saw me and stopped, when I found a gift I was looking for or thought of something to give someone, when I finally got home after driving to and from client appointments, when the checkout lines went quickly, when packages arrived on time, and of course when bed time finally arrived after very long days.

The holiday season is all about celebrating. Typically we leave being thankful to November and Thanksgiving, but you really can’t separate receiving gifts and not being thankful, or the reminder of what this season is all about, whether you’re religious or not. The season is about giving gifts whether the gift of a baby who would save the world or the gift of things that you don’t have and can’t buy for yourself or just are little blessings to you. But the season also gives us the gift of reminding each of us how lucky we are to be alive and have family and/or friends who care about us, and those we care about too.

So as you look to this week ahead I encourage you to look for opportunities each hour and each day to be grateful. Yes, there will still be extra cars on the road, gifts to pretend you like and people you have to play nice with, but there will be more opportunities to celebrate and be grateful than those that annoy you. If you aren’t seeing things to be grateful for it’s time for a serious coal check in your stocking and attitude check too. The bad stuff isn’t going away any time soon, but as we discussed on Monday, it’s up to us to decide how we spend our attention and time.

“I would like to be remembered as a man who had a wonderful time living life, a man who had good friends, fine family – and I don’t think I could ask for anything more than that, actually.” Frank Sinatra

Do you Please your People?

Today we’re just 8 days away from the holiday of Christmas.  If you work with clients who celebrate Hanukkah you’ve been through your busy season, and if you work with clients who celebrate Kwanzaa your busy season lines up with the Christmas busy season. All of this results (hopefully) in lots of customers!  Something that has been hotly debated forever is the topic of who’s right: the customer or the business.  So today I wanted to talk about a few aspects of this debate.

Let me start off with my personal opinion. I don’t believe the customer is always right, nor do I believe that you have to bend over backwards, break personal/moral beliefs, or do things that would jeopardize your business or other people’s lives just to make a sale.  I believe that whenever reasonably possible we should accommodate (potential) customers, but if “the customer is always right” you’re not in charge of your business, they are.  And while you do need (happy) customers to survive and thrive, there have to be boundaries in place so that you don’t end up paying people to be customers.

That said, there’s a lot to be said for having happy customers. Happy customers usually post nice reviews online about you and tell their friends about you, and even come back again.  It’s proven that it’s cheaper to have repeat customers than always have to get new ones. So it’s important to make sure that your main product or service is satisfying the customers and you aren’t always recooking food, repairing technology products or offering discounts to make up for poor performance.

How can you turn average customers into a tribe that sings your praises and supports all efforts you do?  TD Bank is famous for being open later than other banks and not closing the teller windows on the dot of closing time.  Many stores offer bonuses for being good customers and special discounts throughout the year to existing customers.  Restaurants typically offer to pack up uneaten food so you can take it home.  Some businesses even involve their best customers in their creative process and get their input on or let them try out products or services they’re considering adding.

Yes, you can operate by the letter every time.  You can force your employees to keep a strict discipline on what is or isn’t allowed and what they can and can’t do for customers (no matter how much they spend with you every year).  Or you can take a look at your business and see how you can be a little more flexible or what you can do to add a little extra something special that will impress your customers that won’t greatly impinge on your operating costs or efforts.

So in the mix of this holiday season are you spreading holiday cheer or looking more like a Scrooge to your employees and customers?

Ignoring for Success

This week I want to share with you a great quote Tim Ferriss shared recently. The quote talks about a secret of success and happiness that may sound like an contradiction but is really a valuable tool:

“Learning to ignore things is one of the great paths to inner peace.”  Robert J. Sawyer.

You hear a lot about ignorance in the news, you hear about people saying how wrong it is to be ignorant, and to an extent it is wrong to be ignorant, there are lots of things that go on in the world that more people should be aware of but aren’t. But there’s a big difference between being ignorant and ignoring things. When you choose to ignore something it doesn’t mean that you don’t know it exists, you just choose to separate yourself from it. You may ignore your kids because they’re asking you the same question they’ve been asking you for the last 5 minutes and you’ve already answered with a specific answer (not “I don’t know” or “Because I said so”). You may ignore the calories or sugar in a food item because you’ve eaten healthy all day and can have a treat. You may ignore the hurtful words that someone said because they weren’t said to help you and aren’t even true. Again, you’re not refusing to accept that things happened or things that are facts, you’re choosing to block them out.

When you choose to ignore something you’ve now got the time and ability to focus on things that actually matter to you and things that you can do something about. When you ignore your emails except for the 2 or 3 times you’ve scheduled into your day, when you ignore your phone for an hour to buckle down and finish up a project, when you ignore the temptation of the food that’s not good for you on the supermarket shelves, when you ignore the people who don’t love and support you, you’re able to get things done, eat healthier, have better relationships, and be happier because you’re not doing the things that hold you back, distract you or make you sick or sluggish. Is there something in your life that you could ignore even for a period of time each day that would make you more successful or happier?

What’s On Your Christmas List?

One of the things I love about the holiday season is gift giving. Yes, it can get expensive but there’s nothing like the look on someone’s face when they get what they want. I grew up writing Christmas lists, and you probably did too. After all, no one really wants that ugly sweater, they want things they can actually use and/or enjoy. So today I thought I’d share a few things that are on most of our Christmas lists (and our kids’ lists too) even if we won’t admit it.

The first thing we all want is a little help. How many times in the last week have you complained about or wished for a little help with something? That your partner would get off their lazy butt and take out the garbage, that your kids would listen for once, or that mom and dad would stop fighting and talk with someone who could help them fix what’s wrong? Don’t be ashamed that you need help, we all do. Some of us are just brave enough or far enough down the hole to ask for it.

The second thing we all want is a little hope. There are so many sad stories in the news each day it breaks my heart. People around the world are losing their lives every day for senseless reasons and destruction of property and the earth itself are seen in just about every corner of the world. With so many people who choose to live in darkness we want even more during this special season to see that there is still hope for this world and for the next generation.

Finally we all want someone to believe in us. Everyone wants to know that they’re loved, trusted and valued by at least one other person. We seek validation from our parents, our partners, our bosses, our coworkers and everyone else in the world by how we act, talk, dress and who we choose to spend time with.

So if you’re stuck on what to get someone, young or old, the best gift you can give this Christmas season is to offer help and hope and let them know how much you appreciate them and the light they shine in the world.

“All kids need is a little help, a little hope and somebody who believes in them.”  Magic Johnson

Solutions to Making More Sales

Did you know that it can take 10 or more interactions with you to convince someone to purchase from you? 10 social media posts, 10 blog posts 10 emails, 10 store visits, 10 commercials, you get the idea and it can sound overwhelming, I know. But with as many choices as we have available to us in the world today it’s not surprising that it can take a while to convince someone to trust you and what you offer. Last week I shared about some of the ways you may be blocking the sales in your business and this week I want to share some more thoughts about making smart decisions when it comes to sales.

The first thing to remember is that everyone is looking for a solution to their problems but they may not be interested in pulling out their credit cards yet. Depending on the dollar amount there are varying degrees of research that goes into making a purchase, and most people tuck away notes about different companies to contact if they ever need help with a specific situation, so it may be months from the time that someone makes note of your business or first interacts with you and actually contacts you for the service or purchases your product.

Second know that everyone buys differently. What convinces me to buy may have no affect on you. What I buy the second it comes out may take you several months or even years of ads, news reports and reviews by independent sources to convince you to buy. While I may be swayed by celebrity pitches you may only like the cold hard facts.

Third, don’t anticipate a sale on the first interaction. If you’re not expecting the sale if it happens you can celebrate that special gift. But if you anticipate that there will have to be repeated interactions in the future, it’s a lot easier to do things like retargeting, email newsletters, social marketing campaigns on a regular basis and anticipate sales in the future.

Fourth and finally, do your best to keep the customers you do have and continue to be of service to them. Upselling, email newsletters, coupons and discounts, social media posts and ads, blogs and other types of marketing keep you front of mind to your customers. The challenge is to find a balance between being too in-their-face (like the number of sales emails you get for Black Friday) and hearing from you once every 6 months (at which point they don’t remember who you are).

Each and every person is a potential customer. You have the option to push for the sale or build a relationship that will repay you for years to come. What will you do this holiday season to begin long-lasting relationships with your customers?